All about land survey plans

All about land survey plans

Our last few blog posts have focused on the top four situations where a land survey plan is important: buying a home, selling a home, planning an exterior renovation (building a fence, shed, etc.) and disputing a boundary. Now we’ll look at the land survey plan itself, and the important role it plays in our system of private land ownership, which is based on properties with well-defined boundaries.

The strength of a survey plan lies in its ability to communicate how unseen boundaries, physical site features and abstract title information relate spatially to one another. It enables data from a variety of critical sources to be visually illustrated on a unique, specialized map.

Imagine trying to grasp the complexities of land ownership documents, poorly defined boundary descriptions, the geographic fabric of various land parcels and the real-world location of physical entities with only written documents that use obscure legal language to guide you! In contrast, a survey plan’s accurate at-a-glance depiction of your land is worth a million words.

In addition to the displaying the legal boundaries of the property – the most critically important feature – a survey plan also shows:

  • the size and shape of the property
  • the location of rights of ways and easements
  • distances from the boundary to houses, sheds, fences, utilities and any features of importance to the landowner
  • the location of physical monuments that mark the limits of the land (e.g., iron survey bars)

Survey plans can also reveal hidden title deficiencies, highlight building encroachments and demonstrate authentic property dimensions that may not correspond with the unverified descriptions included in the deed.

In one case in Maple Ridge, B.C., a family discovered that their new home’s lot was 1,000 square feet smaller than they were led to believe at the time of purchase – a discrepancy made clear upon examination of the survey plan. (They sued and were awarded $75,000 in damages, plus interest and costs.)

Survey plans are prepared by specially trained, licensed, professional land surveyors in accordance with detailed regulations, authority statutes and generally accepted surveying principles. As the story above shows, these important legal documents are used by lawyers, courts, banks and realtors, as well as government and other agencies. Municipal building and planning departments, for example, rely on surveys as part of their approval process when reviewing submissions.

In short, a survey plan is the gold standard of accurate property information that every homeowner should have.